Burn Those Trees!

We have written a couple of times about biomass, which is a fancy term for burning wood. If you thought using wood fires for energy was out of date–it has been, actually, for a century and a half–you are behind the times. Wood burning is considered “green,” a wholly political concept, and therefore is heavily subsidized in Europe. Millions of trees in the U.S. and Canada suffer the consequences.

The latest from the United Kingdom:

Wood, the fuel that British industry thought it had left behind more than a century ago, is staging a comeback.

Powering the resurgence is Drax Group, owner of the controversial Drax power station that recently posted a 10-fold increase in its latest yearly profits.

Its plant in Yorkshire, Britain’s largest and most controversial power station, generated around 6pc of the country’s electricity in 2023 by burning 6.4 million tonnes of wood. In context, it is the equivalent of 27 million trees.

27 million trees! The same Telegraph article points out that the New Forest only has 46 million trees, less than two years’ worth. So where does the wood come from?

Last year alone Drax imported 4.6 million tonnes of wood from the US and another 760,000 tonnes from Canada, with further deliveries coming from Brazil, Latvia and Russia.

You might think that cutting down trees in the southern U.S., thus preventing them from absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere–do they still teach junior high kids about photosynthesis?–shipping them to Europe on diesel-powered ships, and then burning them, releasing carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO2, must be the dumbest possible way of generating electricity. And, while it is appallingly stupid, and not “green” in any coherent sense, it is arguably not as dumb as wind and solar:

[Drax chief executive Will Gardiner says], “We have created a business which plays an essential role in supporting energy security, providing dispatchable, renewable power for millions of homes and businesses, particularly during periods of peak demand when there is low wind and solar power.”

Yes: burning wood on an industrial scale is idiotic, but at least it works in the dark and when the wind isn’t blowing.

Finally, why does such a foolish way of generating electricity exist? Mandates and subsidies, of course:

Sir Peter’s reference to cost relates to the taxpayer subsidies that Drax receives for producing green energy, which amounted to £617m in 2022 and £587m in 2023.

Meanwhile, China is humming along with more than 1,000 coal-fired power plants, and more coming on line constantly.

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